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4 Growth Hacks that McKinsey and BCG Consultants Use

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October 9, 2020
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7 minutes
Lynn Hunt
Lynn's diverse perspectives on business stem from her extensive experience as a management consultant - her role as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother adds further depth to her insights.

For those of you who are wondering, growth hacking is about strategies for growing your business. It is about acquiring customers quickly while spending as little as possible, and is an important consultant skill.

Where traditional marketers may put in place strategies for brand recognition or public relations, growth hackers are interested only in experimenting and finding the strategies that drive growth. At the same time, they understand that this is a different way of approaching customers: the customer must see the engagement as beneficial, personally relevant, and well-placed. These seem to be worthwhile learnings for top management consultants!

Those of you who are marketing experts will agree that this is a pretty complex subject, covering content marketing, product marketing, and advertising. Here, I will deal with just four aspects, but with enough examples to help you get started: understanding the metrics, developing customer personas, content marketing, and lead magnets.

Key Growth Metrics

The large consulting firms rely on the pirate metrics to measure their hacking success: AARRR. These represent areas of potential growth:

  • Acquisition: getting new customers
  • Activation: convincing customers to use the product
  • Retention: keeping customers and reducing churn
  • Revenue: making money
  • Referral: having current customers refer new customers

Unless the strategies or tactics you apply lead to growth in one or more of these areas, you should discontinue them.

This article deals with online hacks for the first two, acquisition and activation. Even the best management consultants recognize that it’s tough to find new customers. Perhaps they will agree with me that the next three – retention, revenue, and referral - will naturally result from the quality of the service provided to customers rather than depending primarily on marketing techniques and tactics.

“Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.”- Dan Zarella, Social Media Scientist

Developing Customer Personas

The starting point for any strategy is product-market fit: do you have an excellent product that delivers what customers want? As someone has said, “Sell the problem you solve, not the product you make.”

If you want to emulate the best management consultants, develop personas for potential customers. Think about real people in real situations, not broad audiences. Map out demographic data and consider people’s values, goals and challenges. Contemplate what the pain points might be that your product could address. Ask what their information sources are – other than you. Include the conferences, books, blogs and websites and the gurus or experts they might consult.

Map out the customer journey, from awareness of what you offer to evaluation and conversion, and work out how to address each of these steps. Part of understanding the customer journey is timing. When are the critical moments that people will connect with your video, social pages or blogs? What would be required to trigger their interest at these moments to move them another step in the journey?

Having a clear picture of your customer personas allows you to design and target your growth hacks. As social media scientist Dan Zarella says, “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.”

Content Marketing

Content marketing draws the right prospects to your site. It is the key to revenue. It builds relationships and trust - and trust drives revenue.

The content should address all stages of the customer journey – awareness, consideration, decision – but must be engaging and relevant and add value for the user.

At the same time, it can tell your business’s story and build relationships with current and future customers.

In designing a content strategy, it’s useful to remember what people want:

  • It must be easy to find the information they are looking for
  • It must be simple to engage with you
  • There must be some third-party proof of your expertise or worth

A look at the websites of major consulting firms like McKinsey or Bain will show you the importance they give to their Insights pages. They cover topics that the personas they have identified will be looking for. They use SEO tactics in writing these pieces, but make sure that there is real value in the content, often backed with in-depth research and interviews with leading experts. This establishes the companies as credible and generous in what they share.

Content marketing is a lead magnet (more about this later) and makes it easy to add some growth hacking tactics:

  • Strategically placed call-to-action buttons: Find out more. Speak to a consultant. Contact us. Free trial.
  • Exit-intent pop-ups: When the visitor is about to leave the site, the pop-up shows lead magnets or offers other content, updates or case studies.

Sales Funnel

As in any marketing strategy, there is a sales funnel for content:

  • The start is simply to generate traffic. You are looking for website visitors and will offer blogs, press releases, and information on your website, with no consumption barriers.
  • The next level is to generate leads. You offer downloads of reports, guides, templates, infographics or short videos in exchange for an email address.
  • Level three is to generate prospects. Content will be of higher value – an ebook, a case study, an assessment, a subscription, a newsletter – but this may be in exchange for permission to email the user.
  • The bottom of the funnel is to generate customers. Typical examples are compilations of case studies, free trials, early-bird discounts, free consultations. These offers allow you to ask for more information, such as telephone numbers or addresses that people are unwilling to give at an earlier stage.
  • Approaching a potential customer is using their time. If you are respectful of that at every step, you will have a better chance of successful interaction.

Lead Magnets

To generate leads online, you need the contact details of potential customers. The easiest way is through lead magnets. These are incentives offered in exchange for an email address. Typically, this is a downloadable version of the report, book or checklist the user wants.

A lead magnet should be a match for your customer persona. It can be useful, entertaining, or educational and must meet some criteria:

  • Solve a real problem or is something your customer persona wants. It has a high value – both perceived and actual.
  • Quick win and is available immediately – for example, it delivers a checklist that the visitor wants as soon as the email address is provided.
  • Easy to understand and use.
  • Builds your credibility as an expert or highlights your unique value proposition. This is why case studies or research results are often used as lead magnets by big consulting firms and the best management consultants.

Educational Lead Magnets

They are used extensively by the best management consultants. After you have read the descriptions, you will probably recognize them.

  • Gated content: The user can read only the first part of a blog post but must subscribe or give an email address to read the rest. Sometimes a few articles are free, but the next ones need subscriptions or emails.
  • Tutorials teach one specific thing. They could be videos or lists of steps in pdf format. The typical headline will be X Steps to XYZ.
  • Guides educate users on why they need your services. So, suppose you are a freelance management consultant. In that case, you may produce an A to Z Guide to Consulting, or Management Consulting 101 to give the reader an overview of what management consulting entails.
  • Reports work well wherever data, statistics and research are required. These might include trend analyses, predictions, or the results of surveys.
  • Infographics and mind maps are particularly useful on social media to drive traffic to your website. The visual format makes the content memorable and easily understood.
  • Slideshares are presentations you’ve made to others that you place on your website. People who go through slides demonstrate an interest in your topic and are likely to be relevant leads.
  • Webinars and events have a strong appeal. Users perceive them to be high value, and they have urgency – there is a date and time to use the opportunity. And then, you can offer replays after the fact or provide transcripts.
  • Free consulting or coaching sessions: These sessions are effective for the final conversion to generate customers. You will be speaking directly to them, and they will expect a sales pitch at some point. They are more likely to take it up if you have delivered real value in the free session.

Testing, Learning and Scaling

Connecting online with potential customers has become an essential consulting skill. The strategies that will grow the business are not always obvious. Neither do the same approaches work equally well for different groups of prospects. Being a growth hacker means testing strategies, learning what works, and then scaling.

At the end of the day, the purpose of growth hacking is to get traffic to your site, convert visitors to users, and retain them as happy customers.

The good news, especially for freelance management consultants, is that you may not have to do everything yourself. The trend towards online consulting platforms means that the platform itself will provide much of the material and the techniques required for growth hacking, while also showcasing your profile and skills if you are one of its top management consultants. This leaves you free to get on with your customers’ projects. Just make sure that the platform you join is using some of the hacks described in this article!